Evans, Gordon combine for 45 points; while Lady Bucs set new single-season win mark
MACON, Ga. (March 5, 2010) - They say beating a team three times in one season is never easy, but the Lady Bucs managed to pull off the Tri-Fecta over Belmont on Friday afternoon.
Senior Atlantic Sun Player of the Year Siarre Evans (Griffin, Ga.) posted her 53rd career double-double (25pts/12reb) and Tarita Gordon (Wichita, Kan.) scored 18 of her 20 points in the second half, as the Lady Bucs held off Belmont 77-63 in the conference semifinals inside Mercer's University Center.
The win was significant for ETSU as it not only propelled the Lady Bucs into the championship game for the fourth straight year - becoming the first team since Georgia State (2000-03) to accomplish the feat - but it also set a new single-season school wins record at 22-8.
"Belmont deserves a lot of credit today, because they came out really focused and ready to play," commented head coach Karen Kemp, who has now guided the Lady Bucs to a pair of nine-game winning streaks this season. "They came out with a lot of intensity and the halftime talk was Belmont wanted it more than we did. It was a lot tougher than I wanted it to be. I didn't want the starters to play as many minutes as they did, but when you get to this point of the season it's either win or go home - so we had to keep our top players out on the court to come away with the win."
In the first half, Evans and the Lady Bucs exploded out of the gates, as the Griffin, Ga. native scored nine of ETSU's first 11 points and the Blue and Gold held Belmont scoreless for the first 3 minutes, 36 seconds of the contest. However, the Lady Bucs began settling for the outside shot - and with ETSU leading 13-3 - the Bruins scored 18 of the next 23 points to grab their first lead at 21-18 after Alyssa Visbeen connected on back-to-back lay-ups with 7:47 remaining in the half.
Tara Davis (Murfreesboro, Tenn.) finally snapped a 4-minute, 26-second Lady Buccaneer scoring drought and sparked a 10-0 run - putting ETSU ahead 28-21, but a Kristin Nash 3-pointer with 4:19 showing on the clock gave Belmont some momentum. The Bruins regained a 29-28 lead after Nash nailed another trey with 1:44 left before the break and Belmont looked to be heading into the locker room with a one-point lead; however, Wiles found Evans for a jumper as time expired and ETSU led, 30-29.
Both teams did not shoot well in the first half, as ETSU went 10-of-34 (29.4 percent) and Belmont finished 10-of-35 (28.6 percent). For the Bruins, they made three more 3-pointers than the Lady Bucs - going 5-for-16 to ETSU's 2-of-13 showing. ETSU was also out-rebounded 29 to 23, and the Bruins capitalized on 10 offensive rebounds as they had 10 second-chance points in the first 20 minutes.
Just like the first half, ETSU opened the second with a bang as pressure defense and three-point shooting extended the Lady Buccaneer lead to nine, 44-35, forcing Belmont to burn a 30-second timeout when Davis picked Shaunda Strayhorn's pocket at mid-court and drove in for an uncontested lay-up with 16:06 to play.
While the Lady Bucs were getting a well-balanced scoring attack in the first six-plus minutes of the second half, Belmont relied solely on Haley Nelson as the second team all-conference player scored the first 10 points for the Bruins until Amber Rockwell nailed a trey - making it 52-42 with 12:44 left in the contest.
From there, the Bruins were able to cut their deficit into single digits when Strayhorn connected on a long three, but Evans quickly pushed the ETSU lead back to double figures when she converted an and-one - giving the Lady Bucs a 61-49 advantage with eight minutes to play.
Again Belmont got to within nine, 61-52, but this time ETSU wouldn't let the Bruins inch any closer with 5:46 to play.
The Lady Bucs received back-to-back lay-ups from TaRonda Wiles (Danville, Va.) - putting ETSU back up 13, 65-52. The ETSU spurt proved to be the dagger, as the Bruins were forced to foul down the stretch and the Lady Bucs hung on to win by 14.
After shooting under 30 percent in the first half, ETSU shot 47.1 percent in the final 20 minutes and finished the game 26-of-68 (38.2 percent). Belmont also finished strong as they shot 48.1 percent in the final stanza and ended 37.1 percent for the game (23-62). ETSU's pressure defense won the game for them, as the Lady Bucs cashed 22 turnovers into 20 points on the offensive end.
Joining Evans and Gordon in double figures were Wiles and Davis. Wiles finished with 15 points, six rebounds and five assists; while Davis netted 11 points and pulled down four boards.
Belmont was led by Nelson - who was held scoreless in first half - but managed to record 14 points and 13 rebounds.
The Lady Bucs now await the winner of North Florida/Jacksonville for Saturday's championship game. Tip is set for noon and can be seen on CSS.
For more information on Lady Buccaneer basketball, visit www.ETSUBucs.com.